Data Stewards – Not Data Cops
If you have a data quality and data governance program in your organization, you must be having people designated as ‘data stewards’ (if you do not, read why they are important). These individuals are critical for the proper working of data quality initiatives and their ultimate success. However, it has been noted that data stewards in many organizations are viewed as data police or data cops, seeking to punish people stepping out of line.
Although it is almost impossible to anticipate every issue that can crop up, here are some practices that a data steward can (and should) follow to encounter the most common problems.
- Data stewards should be patient – People taking up this position will have to realize that such a project represents a substantial change; and humans don’t like it. Patience on the part of the stewards will go a long way towards ensuring that doubts and queries of employees are properly handled and any discontent is recognised and acknowledged.
- Data stewards should be accommodating (up to a limit) – Your organization will definitely have old timers who are set in their ways. It might be difficulty to impress upon them the importance of data governance and hope for them to change overnight. Depending upon the company, and its culture, the data steward might have to accommodate such people. Of course, the parameters are well defined in the case of data quality and there is not too much wiggle room, but what is important is to not lose sight of the human element.
- Data stewards should be competent – This is a point where we have seen companies stumble. Many a times, a data stewardship position is handed over to a person who is not performing as per their manager’s expectation. If you want people to respect and value the position and the person, make sure that the person being appointed is someone who is competent in their own existing role. This might not be easy but is essential.
- Data stewards should be aware of their role – The data steward needs to not just take care of the data, but also, explain to the employees why this (generally) disruptive process is essential. They need to demonstrate that data quality is no longer a matter of choice and how managing data better is good for the company in the long run. This can be done only by someone who is clear about their role going in. Ensure that the person stepping in these shoes is aware of their responsibilities.
- Data stewards should have the support of the business leadership – The last and probably the most important point. The data steward should have the support of the business leadership. If the employees sense that the leadership is not 100% on-board with either the project or the personnel, their respect for both will vanish. It is critical to ensure this situation does not arise.
Data stewardship is not a permanent position, but will require even more careful consideration before being instituted and the right person being appointed. Whether you are looking to create such a position or sort out problems with an existing one, the pointers above will definitely be helpful. What challenges have you faced with your data stewards? Share your stories in the comment section.
Further Reading –
White Paper – Data Governance for ERP Projects
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